The founder of a Turkish digital currency exchange that went bust in 2021 has been sentenced to over 11,000 years in prison for fraud.
Faruk Fatih Özer founded the Thodex exchange in 2017 at the height of the so-called ‘crypto mania.’ Capitalizing on an implosion of digital asset popularity in Turkey, the exchange grew rapidly and processed tens of millions of dollars daily. Faruk became a celebrity in his home country and was regularly seen around government officials, including former interior minister Suleyman Soylu.
In early 2021, it all came crashing down. In April, the exchange halted services “to handle a sales process” before shutting down shortly after as Faruk and other top executives fled the country. He was later arrested in Albania and extradited to Turkey.
Faruk has now been sentenced to 11,196 years in prison. A court in Istanbul also slapped his two siblings—brother Guven and sister Serap—with similar sentences for their part in the scam. The court found them guilty of money laundering, aggravated fraud, and heading a criminal organization.
Faruk appeared ‘remorseless’ in his sentencing hearing and denied leading a criminal organization, according to local reports. The 29-year-old insisted that “he’s smart enough to lead any institution on Earth” and that if he were to conduct a rug pull, he wouldn’t have been so easily caught.
“[My intelligence] is evident in this company I established at the age of 22. I wouldn’t have acted so amateurishly if this were a criminal organization,” he said.
The amount lost to Thodex remains unclear, with wildly varying estimates from different sources. In their court filings, Turkish prosecutors claimed the exchange collapsed with 356 million liras (US$13 million) in investor funds. However, local media have claimed the figure was much higher, with some citing $2 billion. Blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis claimed the figure is nearly $2.6 billion.
While 11,000 years is the lengthiest prison sentence for a digital asset crime globally, Faruk could have received an even longer sentence as prosecutors had requested over 40,000 years behind bars.
Long sentences are not uncommon in Turkey. Last year, an Istanbul court sentenced a TV cult preacher and 10 of their followers to 8,658 years behind bars over sex crimes and fraud charges.
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